AFTER Black Friday came Sombre Saturday.
As poor Leonid Slutsky looked towards the heavens shortly after Josh Brownhill’s late winner, it was inescapable to avoid the impression that his managerial time at Hull City was up.
Another late capitulation, another disaster movie, another abrogation of defensive responsibility; it really is the equivalent of footballing death by a thousand cuts for the Russian, who saw his side surrender a 2-0 lead with around 25 minutes to go and lose in incredulous fashion.
Unfortunately, nice guys do not often finish at the top.
A personable figure, Slutsky looked a broken man in speaking to the press after the game and plainly did not have the answers.
Looking down at the table with his right hand on his forehead, a tortured Slutsky painfully struggled to come to terms with witnessing Hull somehow pluck defeat from the jaws of victory and extend their winless streak to six games in the most wretched fashion imaginable.
A personable figure, Slutsky looked a broken man in speaking to the press after the game and plainly did not have the answers.Leon Wobschall
It was awful to watch – as was the Tigers’ desperate defending in the final quarter.
Bristol City head coach Lee Johnson’s synopsis that Hull’s confidence ‘tanked’ after Aden Flint bundled a goal back on 68 minutes was right on the money.
Johnson was also succinct in his analysis that his own side were ‘terrible’ in the opening 55 minutes. Fortunately, for him, it was panic-stricken Hull’s turn to plumb the depths in the defensive stakes late on with more horrendous play enabling Bobby Reid to level before Brownhill powered forward unchecked to drive home the 89th-minute winner.
The Robins were not particularly great, but they demonstrably displayed an abundance of something that the Tigers were wholly deficient in – personality and belief – as they came from 2-0 down away to win for the first time since April 2000.
And there stood Slutsky to try and somehow pick up the pieces once again.
Just under half an hour may have elapsed, but it had seemed like an eternity since Jarrod Bowen had fired Hull into a 2-0 lead that the visitors could not argue with on 61 minutes.
The Tigers’ shining light made a point of racing over with his team-mates to celebrate with Slutsky on the touchline in a clear show of support for the beleaguered Russian, soon treated to a chorus of ‘Slutsky, give us a wave’ from home supporters.
Those clad in amber and black were not thinking about a goodbye wave either.
On an ultimately grim afternoon, Bowen – whose milestone tenth goal of the season possessed a hollow feeling – said: “We all know that we are to blame on the pitch and take responsibility for the result after being in control for so much of the game.
“To let it slip like that; everyone knows that is frustrating. We just need to be mentally stronger together.”
As for his impromptu celebrations in the direction of Slutsky, he added: “He has shown great faith in me. There is loads of pressure on him, but at the end of the day, we are on the pitch.
“He just picks the team and we have got to perform for him and I wanted to dedicate the goal to him for everything he has done to me during the season so far on and off the pitch.
“He is a top bloke. I am sure everyone in the outside world can see that. He is a great bloke and man. Obviously, we all have sympathy for him. But we have to all take responsibility.”
Keen for Slutsky to remain in charge, Bowen continued: “Definitely.
“For me, he has been great. It is not as if we have been going out there and playing awful and getting battered four or five-nil every week. We are playing well, it is just that we kick ourselves in the teeth sometimes.”
Too many times, Hull supporters would justifiably venture. Earlier, much earlier, there had been the tantalising prospect of respite for Hull against a Bristol side who looked nothing like a team nestled in the play-offs.
Their first-half show was atrocious, with the Tigers meriting their lead.
It may have been a touch fortuitous after Fraizer Campbell challenged Frank Fielding following Bowen’s dangerous centre with the ball rebounding in off the Hull striker, but the hosts earned their luck. The industrious Jackson Irvine also went close, while at the other end, the Tigers defence – minus the ill Michael Dawson with Ondrej Mazuch making his first appearance since August 26 – had few genuine alarms.
Irvine saw a header sail agonisingly wide early in the second half, but a two-goal buffer soon arrived when Bowen proved alert to latch onto Markus Henriksen’s header and fire home from close range, with the defensive issues exclusively belonging to Bristol.
A warning arrived when Allan McGregor denied Reid, but it was not heeded and Flint soon bundled home after beating the Hull keeper to a free-kick on the right from substitute Niclas Eliasson.
Trouble was brewing with Reid left criminally unmarked before firing home after Jamie Paterson’s free-kick was not cleared before Brownhill plunged in the knife. Horrible, just horrible.
Hull City: McGregor; Aina, Hector, Mazuch, Tomori; Stewart, Larsson (Meyler 73); Bowen (Grosicki 87), Henriksen, Irvine; Campbell (Dicko 74). Substitutes unused: Marshall, Clark, Hamilton, Meyler, Evandro.
Bristol City: Fielding; Wright, Flint, Baker, Magnusson; O’Dowda (Djuric 55), Brownhill, Smith, Pack (Paterson 45); Woodrow (Eliasson 45), Reid. Substitutes unused: Steele, Kelly, Leko, Taylor.
Referee: R Jones (Merseyside).